Jeremiah 10:5 KJB - “THEY ARE UPRIGHT AS THE PALM TREE”
ESV - “THEIR IDOLS ARE LIKE SCARECROWS IN A CUCUMBER FIELD.”
NIV 1978, 1984 editions - "Like A SCARECROW IN A MELON PATCH, their idols cannot speak"
NIV 2011 edition - "Like A SCARECROW IN A CUCUMBER PATCH, their idols cannot speak"
Jeremiah 10 is speaking about the idols of the heathen and tells the children of Israel not to be like them.
“2 Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.
4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
5 THEY ARE UPRIGHT AS THE PALM TREE, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.”
The Hebrew word here for “PALM TREE” is # 8560 tohmer, and is only used twice in the O.T. The other instance is in Judges 4:5 where we are told about the prophetess Deborah “And she dwelt under the PALM TREE”. Even versions like the ESV, NIV, NASB etc. translate the word as “palm tree” in that place.
The Catholic Connection
However in this place the ESV, NIV, NASB, NET, Holman, and the modern Catholic versions like the St. Joseph NAB 1970 and the New Jerusalem bible 1985 read - “They are like SCARECROWS IN A CUCUMBER PATCH.” - or “Scarecrows in a melon patch.”
Likewise, the Jehovah Witness New World Translation reads: "They are like A SCARECROW OF A CUCUMBER FIELD, and cannot speak."
However the previous Douay-Rheims 1610 and Douay 1950 both read “palm tree” and now the 2009 Catholic Public Domain Version has gone back to - “They have been fabricated in the likeness of A PALM TREE”
Agreeing with the King James Bible’s “they are upright as THE PALM TREE” are Wycliffe 1395, Coverdale 1535, the Great Bible 1540, Matthew’s Bible 1549 - “It standeth as styfe as the PALMTREE”, the Bishop’s Bible 1568 - “It standeth as stiffe as the Palme tree”, the Geneva Bible 1599 - “The idols stand up as the PALM TREE”, Lamsa’s translation of the Syriac Peshitta - “They are set upright as PALM TREES”, Julia Smith Translation 1855, Noyes Translation 1869, the Revised Version 1881 - “They are like a PALM TREE,” Darby 1890, Young’s 1898 - “As A PALM they are stiff”, the ASV 1901 - “They are like a PALM-TREE”, Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible 1902, The Word of Yah 1993, God's First Truth 1999, The Judaica Press Tanach 2004, the Context Group Version 2007, the Orthodox Jewish Bible 2011 - “They [the idols] are upright as the tomer (palm tree]”, the KJV 21st Century 1994, the Third Millenium Bible 1998, Green's Literal 2005, Bond Slave Version 2008, the Concordant Literal Version, the 2012 Natural Israelite Bible - “They are upright, like A PALM TREE”, the Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010, the Holy Scriptures VW Edition 2010, the New European Version 2010, the Online Interlinear 2010 (André de Mol), the Jubilee Bible 2010, the Biblos Interlinear Bible 2011 - "They are UPRIGHT AS THE PALM TREE", The Work of God's Children Illustrated Bible 2011, the World English Bible 2012, .
Foreign language Bibles that follow the Hebrew text and also read “PALM TREE” are the Spanish Sagradas Escrituras 1569, Cipriano de Valera 1602, the Reina Valera 1909-1995 and Reina Valera Gómez 2004 - “Erguidos están como PALMERA”, the Portuguese Almeida Corrigida E Fiel 1681 and A Biblia Sagrada em Portugués - “Säo como a PALMEIRA”, the Tagalog Ang Dating Biblia - “Sila'y gaya ng puno ng PALMA”, the Italian Diodati 1649 and La Nuova Diodati 1991 - “Son tratti diritti, a guisa di PALMA”, the Albanian bible - “Idhujt qëndrojnë drejt si një palmë”, the Lithuanian Bible - “Jie yra tiesūs kaip palmė”
AND The Modern Greek Bible - Ειναι ορθια ως φοινιξ, αλλα δεν λαλουσιν· = "They are straight as THE PALM TREE (φοινιξ) , but they do not speak."
And the Hebrew Rashi Complete Tanach 2004 - “Like a PALM TREE” and the Hebrew Interlinear Old Testament - “כתמר as the palm tree, מקשׁה upright המה They”
Where does this weird change from “a palm tree” to “a scarecrow in a cucumber patch” come from? Not the so called Greek LXX (It is really messed up in this section - it omits verses 6, 7, 8 and 10, and has two verse fives, neither one of which reads like the Hebrew or these modern Vatican Versions) nor the Syriac Peshitta, which reads just like the KJB has it - “They are set up straight as PALM TREES, but they do not speak.”
The Pulpit Commentary tells us - “They are upright as the palm tree; rather, they are like a pillar (i.e. a scarecrow) in a field of cucumbers. This is the interpretation given to our passage in Ver. 70 of the apocryphal Epistle of Jeremiah (written in the Maccabean period, evidently with reference to our prophecy), and is much more striking than the rival translation, "like a palm tree”.
So, in other words, it has nothing to do with the Hebrew text, which reads “palm tree” but with some APOCRYPHAL book that is not even in the Bible, and it is “an interpretaion” they like it because “it is much more striking” than that dull old “palm tree”. Folks, this is how modern scholarship works.
John Gill comments: “They are upright as the palm tree, Being nailed to a post, or fastened to a pillar, or set upon a pedestal, and so stand erect without bending any way; and are like a palm tree, which is noted for its uprightness.”
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown comment: -“5. upright—or, "They are of turned work, resembling a palm tree" [Maurer]. The point of comparison between the idol and the palm is in the pillar-like uprightness of the latter”
John Calvin translated it into Latin as “palm tree” - “Sicuti palma aequalis” and then comments: “They are indeed erect as the palm-trees; and thus there appears in them something remarkable: but they speak not.”
Adam Clarke Commentary - “They are upright as the palm tree - As straight and as stiff as the trees out of which they are hewn.”
Matthew Poole’s Commentary - “They are upright as the palm tree; the nature of which is to grow upright and tall, without any branchings, till it comes to the top, thereby possibly representing majesty.”
Some Other Weird Versions (so you can get a better sense of the meaning, don't ya know ;-)
The Ancient Roots Translinear bible 2008 says: "HAMMERED TO A DATE-PALM, it speaks nothing"
Interlinear Hebrew Scriptures 2012 (Mebust) - "LIKE A ROUNDED POST, THEY ARE, and they cannot speak"
The King James Bible is right, as always.